As long as we want to encounter people and books face-to-face in a natural way, libraries will always have their place.
Just one verse each day.
I’ll never forget the time I was at a party and mentioned attending an event at my local library.
A guy looked me dead in the face and said, “Really? People still go to libraries?”
Yes, my friend, people still go to libraries. Yes, in 2023. Yes, in the age of Audible and Kindle and ebooks.
In fact, to be honest with you, I am mildly obsessed with my local library. Libraries have grown far beyond their original purpose of loaning books to become absolutely vital centers for community.
At libraries near me, you can borrow a truly amazing array of items, including an Instant Pot, puzzles, American Girl dolls, tablets preloaded with educational apps and games for kids, an electric keyboard, and so, so much more.
And of course, you can borrow books! Library books are absolutely vital to my family culture and homeschool environment. I read thousands of picture books to my young kids every year, thanks to our local library. Right now, I have over 100 books checked out, and that’s the case most of the time.
No matter how many times I go to the library, I can never quite get over my feeling of amazement and gratitude when I walk out with a giant stack of high-quality books and activities for my kids. How is this real life? I think. Every visit to the library makes me feel like a kid set loose in a candy store, and all the candy is free.
On top of that, libraries host classes, events, and resources that bring together the local community and offer camaraderie and education. I’ve met a number of close friends through library storytime when our kids were younger. And I regularly work from my library when I need a quiet place to write while my husband wrangles our kids at home.
Libraries are also vital for people experiencing homelessness, who often rely on the social services libraries offer. Libraries are one of the few places left where people can exist in public without any expectation of spending money.
Places of encounter
Given my love affair with libraries, I was delighted to come across an essay about another writer’s love for Barnes & Noble, which has a very similar vibe to libraries. Ezra Klein writes:
Barnes & Noble’s resurgence is a reminder that there is nothing inevitable about its (or any bookstore’s) demise. Great bookstores and libraries still provide something the digital world cannot: a place not just to buy or borrow books but to be among them.
Going to a library, or bookstore, is a fundamentally different experience than looking up books online, and online book shopping can’t replace it. There is something magical about strolling through the stacks at a leisurely pace, picking up books you’ve never heard of, and finding new favorite reads you never would have encountered otherwise.
And of course, they’re not just places to find books. Libraries are places of encounter with other people in a very real way, a way that is badly needed in today’s fragmented culture.
In libraries and bookstores, you can come together with people from all walks of life who share an interest in books, information, and all that libraries have to offer. The conversations and interactions we have in libraries can change our lives.
So my answer to that guy at the party remains the same: “Yes, people still go to libraries. And hopefully people always will.”
As long as we need other people, as long as we crave information and learning, as long as we desire to encounter people and books face-to-face in a natural and informal way, libraries will always have their place. May they live long and prosper!